A few years ago, following a windy day, our three and a half year old grandson was playing in our backyard with my husband, Tim. I came outside to see how things were going and my grandson very proudly showed me a collection of about 20 underdeveloped oranges he had collected from the ground beneath the wind-blown orange tree and placed in a small dish. The poor oranges ranged in color from yellow to black and from the size of peas to marbles. Cheerfully he exclaimed, “See all my oranges, Grandmama?” Then with all the excitement he could express he announced, “Someday they’re gonna be BIG oranges!”
I pointed to the green oranges that remained on the tree saying, “These oranges up here will get real big, Buddy, but those oranges” (pointing to the dish) “won’t get any bigger.”
“Why not?” he asked sorrowfully.
“Because, Bud, those oranges aren’t connected to the tree anymore. The oranges have to stay connected to the tree in order to grow big.”
Those poor, pathetic oranges still were oranges, they were still round and some were even turning yellow like oranges always do before they turn orange. They could appear to be normal. But something went wrong. They were no longer connected.
It reminds me of one of the most pathetic verses in Scripture (in my opinion, anyway). It occurs when Delilah has cut off Samson’s hair and he doesn’t know it yet. She wakes him by yelling, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He thinks, “No problem! I’ll go defeat them as I have before.” Then the Scripture tells us, “But he did not know that the LORD had left him.” (Judges 16:20)
So sad. He’s clueless – and helpless! He’s taken the anointing hand of the Lord so much for granted that he can’t even tell when it’s been lifted from him. How often are we like that? Going through life thinking we’ve got it together and not realizing that, because we have let go of Abba’s hand, we are wandering, about to be blinded because we thought we could wing it on our own.
Abiding is the key. Jesus says in John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Unless we are abiding in the vine, there is no chance we are going to bear any fruit. But what exactly does it mean to “abide”? I always thought it meant to stay close, but if we consider a literal vine, it takes on a deeper meaning.
In a vineyard, all the branches of a Vine grow directly from the primary stock. A branch cannot piggy back off of another branch; it must be connected only to the True Vine. So it is with us and our Lord. Each year, the branches are cut back till they are only about an inch long. For nearly a year they “abide” in the Vine and the Vine expands and grows all around the little nub of a branch. Suddenly, after soaking up all the nutrients of the Vine, the branches grow out quickly and are able to produce fruit.
I’m looking for that place. That place where I can crawl inside and abide within the Vine. That place where I can hide away in my Shelter and soak Him up. Where all of me is pruned away except for the part that is one with Him. Then I’ll be abiding and then I’ll be growing.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5